House: Do we fix, accept, or embrace deafness?

House. *shakes head*

Most bloggers did a good job addressing the inaccurate information that came up during the show so I won’t focus on that too much.
http://deafness.about.com/b/2009/04/28/deaf-blogosphere-house-on-cochlear-implants.htm

I knew there would be numerous comments on facebook and AIM about last night’s episode. I also knew there would be several blog posts about it. Sure enough! πŸ™‚

This is one of the few times I’ve seen BOTH the culturally Deaf and CI communities bothered by how CIs/Deaf culture was portrayed in the media. The 2 communities actually agreed on some of the inaccurate information which was refreshing to see since the 2 communities don’t always *ahem* see eye-to-eye on things. πŸ˜‰

Remember this is a TV show and House is usually pretty extreme. It just happens that us deaf people are familiar with CIs and the Deaf culture in general. I think that’s why the inaccuracies stood out so much to us. I also think it’s because we have put in the time and energy trying to educate the mainstream society and it felt like some of that work was being undone.

Yes, it was extreme. Yes, I disagreed with some of what was said. Yes, there was ignorance…but we can use this as a good reminder as to how society views these issues and we can start to address those misconceptions.

Remember there was also a crazy bachelor party, House set a cadaver on fire, House apparently saw and talked to a dead person (this is the first season I’ve watched this show so I’m not quite sure what that was all about), and there were strippers. It was just not the best episode in general. I got the feeling that the writers ran out of ideas.

In a subtle way…the show did bring up ongoing issues (I give props to the writers for effort):
–House represented the medicine world and he did what doctors are trained to do. Doctors are “trained” to fix what they believe is wrong (aka what society labels as a “disability”).
–The mom represented a parent’s responsibility to her child. She loved/accepted her son but she also knew that it’s a hearing world out there. It can be a difficult decision for a parent to make.
–The boy represented the Deaf culture. He accepted who he was and was happy with being deaf. He didn’t start to question his identity until he was implanted.
–Stigma of signing.
–Stigma of having unintelligible speech.
–Stigma of being a CI user.
–Stigma of having Deaf pride.
–Who has a voice? Deaf or hearing people? Deaf patients or hearing doctors? Deaf child or hearing parent?
–A person who has been deaf most of his life can have his life turned upside if he wakes up being able to hear. It’s not as simple as turning on a switch and miraculously being able to understand everything.

The show basically tried to get the point across that Deaf culture does exist. Deaf people can be happy with who they are. Deaf people may want to hear. Deaf people may not want to hear. It’s not as simple as the mainstream society wants it to be and it’s a lot more complicated than most people realize.

I have no idea if viewers who have never been around a deaf person was able to get the gist of any of those points or if they just couldn’t believe that some people do NOT want to hear. As someone who is in the hearing, deaf, CI, and medical worlds….I felt like the writers were trying to get the above points across in a very subtle way. Did they do a very good job? Nope.

To me, it’s not so important what we…the deaf community (CI users, ASL-CI community, culturally Deaf, deaf, oral, parents of children with hearing loss, etc.) thought of this show. We’re already aware of these issues since we deal with them often. Instead of discussing this among ourselves we need to find out what the mainstream society thought. This may have been the only exposure some hearing people have had to deaf related topics. What were their reactions and why did they react that way? We can then use that feedback to educate the mainstream world rather than keep this within our little deaf community.

It could definitely have been done a lot better, but it is House after all. I was expecting it to be pretty extreme anyways. I mean….ripping out your implant….if that isn’t extreme, I don’t know what is!

Just don’t get too hung up on this episode.

Btw, did anyone else love the part where House went into the boy’s room dancing with a boombox? (yes, some may have seen that as a cruel thing to do on House’s part but House is generally mean anyways….I found his little dance entertaining).

Disclaimer: This was a rushed post and I only got an hour of sleep last night.

2 thoughts on “House: Do we fix, accept, or embrace deafness?

  1. Great post!I was not aware of all the inaccuracies as you were. I did notice the big ones though. I agree with you about realizing it is just a TV show. However, those out there who do not and take it literally will believe what was portrayed about CI and the deaf community. This was not the best House episode. They repeated the idea of performing surgery without the patient’s consent (Cudy did this to House when operating on his leg). And the hallucination of Amber is a bit out there. Why does every tv show having everyone seeing dead people (Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy)? I think it was a very superficial portrayal of the some of the issues faced by the CI and deaf communities. It was definitely pro CI.If anything, the show created buzz about the topic. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think the most important thing to remember is that it is only a tv show that is not medically accurate (about NF2 either). So, I still like it for what it is!KS

  2. It definitely wasn’t the best House episode. ;-)I’m with you and I felt like they were using the same storylines (hallucination and performing surgery without the patient’s consent).There were some other interesting issues that came up that wasn’t necessarily CI/deaf related. Such as the whole…when should teenagers have the right to make their own medical decisions and the whole obtaining the patient’s consent thing first…that I thought could apply to GCing in a way.They were off about the NF2 part too.I still like House too. I’ve seen a lot worse.

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